Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Future of the Toronto's Crumbling Gardiner Expressway

image :: Green Ribbon concept for the Gardiner Expressway-Toronto, by Quadrangle

The elevated freeway near the Toronto waterfront, The Gardiner Expressway, is crumbling and the city is trying to figure out what to do for years. Last year, a Waterfront Toronto report provided case studies and There are plans to decommission the portion east of Jarvis to the DVP, which is in the environmental assessment phase. Last year, there was a Torontoist article on designs to deal with the Gardiner and I blogged about how San Francisco has dismantled two elevated freeways, which suffered damage from the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

A recent Toronto Star article discussed about one of the designs, the Green Ribbon by Quadrangle, which is still alive after the council voted to keep it as a proposal. The idea is to retrofit the Gardiner and create a top deck with a greenbelt. This would shelter the highway and eliminate the need for road salt in the winter and create a public space. 

The Gardiner question isn't a simple matter of transportation goals, but need to incorporate urban planning and design, economic development, and open space considerations. Critics of the superstructure argue that the Gardiner cuts off the waterfront from the downtown core. Others argue that part of the real problem is Lake Shore Boulevard under the Gardiner that makes walking/cycling to the waterfront an ugly gauntlet to traverse. My experience is walking under the Gardiner {at Yonge and Bay, as well as at Spadina}, crossing Lake Shore, and going under the railroad tracks is noisy and unpleasant.

I've been thinking a lot about the Gardiner lately and my bias has been towards daylighting these corridors. I don't think burying the Gardiner from Dufferin to the DVP "Big Dig" style will be feasible, particularly due to underground obstacles {e.g., sewage line under Portland St. towards the lake, streetcar loops, filtered water intake at John} that would be costly to deal with. I think burying parts of the Gardiner may make sense, but only in strategic locations in concert with multiple goals {transportation, urban planning and design, open space, and economic development}, and with spurs that help channel traffic in/out of the downtown core.

My initial thoughts were to dismantle the elevated Gardiner from Bathurst to the DVP and create a "boulevard" along the Gardiner/Lake Shore Blvd. corridor. The goal is to create a "great street" {characteristics} and ideally improve property values and revitalize the waterfront. The problem is the sheer volume of traffic on the Gardiner and whether it can be dispersed on surface streets. I've been crunching some numbers {preliminarily} on Gardiner traffic volume {data}, where approximately 84,000-120,000 vehicles are on the eastbound and westbound Gardiner between Spadina and Jarvis per 24 hour period. 

In contrast, University/Queen's Park carries around 50,000 vehicles per day, both directions. Many drivers commuting in will most likely see increases in commute times of even 5 minutes to be unacceptable, making the removal of the Gardiner politically problematic. Turning it into a boulevard would require increased road infrastructure in order to divert traffic into the downtown core and increased mass transit to accommodate commuters tired of the increased transit time in their vehicles. The perceived danger to the city is if the increased constraint on driving into Toronto will result in businesses and offices leaving. Although, a revitalized waterfront and destination "great street" along the Gardiner/Lake Shore corridor from Spadina to the DVP and on to Leslieville may offset or negate this effect. Although, some argue that people should live closer to where they work, so employment centres should be fostered in "GO" [Train] citiesaddressing the sprawl problem. I also like the idea of attracting both business and residents to the old Toronto city limits before amalgamation.

In the future I'll be blogging about other proposals that the Toronto council is proposing and my own ideas on the future of the Gardiner corridor {with a map} that encompasses multiple goals, not just transportation, and a restored Don River wetlands.

Song:: Sugarcubes-'Motorcrash'

Twitterversion:: What to do w/#Toronto's crumbling elevated Gardiner Expresswy? Big dig? Retrofitted greenbelt? "Great Street" Boulevard? @Prof_K

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